Tyler asked me if we could feature the peacock mantis. And I thought it was a great idea and so here it is. Tyler (dirt4dinner) is the guy to thank for putting this together. this is a great article.
Often referred to as a "pest", "alien", "monster" or "nuisance" the Mantis Shrimp has, rightfully-so, earned its self a spot on the "Most Wanted" list by Aquarists world wide. With their ability to hide in tiny spots, hunt at night, and kill most anything it wants, people are more likely to kill them on the spot than to make a nice home for them.
The Stomatopod is a crustacean, assumed to be a distant relative of shrimp and crabs. However with its alien like body and modified raptorial appendage it has been given the common name of "Mantis Shrimp". The Mantis Shrimp is believed to have split off from the rest of the crustacean's family around 400 million years ago and has evolved into an amazing creature to say the least.
Some of the things that are overlooked when people consider the Mantis Shrimp are its intelligence, friendly personality, unbelievable anatomy and barbaric hunting style! Let's break this down a little more.
The Mantis Shrimp is an intelligent hunter and gatherer. It will cleverly camouflage its home, it will hunt with cunning and speed, and most importantly it will do so very successfully. When housing one of these animals you get the feeling that they spend a large portion of their time trying to figure you out, learn about you, and understand what part you play in their life. This is one of the reasons that a Mantis is such an amazing pet, you actually get to learn something about each other. It is said that a Mantis will come to know its owner, most likely because they figure out that you provide food, but either way they acknowledge you when you walk by or approach their tank.
The anatomy of the Mantis Shrimp is something like a story from a horror movie, or Sci-fi flick; there are two types of Mantis Shrimp which are separated by their raptorial appendage (front legs). One type is a "smasher" and beats its food into submission with a series of lightening fast punches that happen as quickly as 2 milliseconds per hit (a human eye blink takes 100 milliseconds). The smasher mantis (which is the category of the most popularly kept mantis, the Peacock Mantis) has evolved front legs that resemble that of a human elbow and are extended forward to strike at their prey. The other type of Mantis is a "spearer" which has evolved its front legs into what looks like a knife blade with barbs. It uses the same speed and blunt force to spear its prey.
I have owned my Mantis, Bam Bam, for almost 2 months and have never been more pleased with any salt water critter purchase to date. He is just awe-inspiring to watch, and incredibly exciting when he decides it's time for a meal.
The Mantis Shrimp tank is a pretty simple setup. A minimum of a 20 gallon tank (preferably acrylic as Mantis Shrimps have been known to break glass tanks), sand bed and several rocks are the basic necessity. Lighting needs to be kept mild as Mantis Shrimp are susceptible to skin diseases caused by intense lighting. A hiding spot is a must so the Mantis can get out of the direct light, and they are naturally nocturnal and in need of a tight hiding spot during the day. A protein skimmer is almost a necessity unless you are incredibly diligent in your water changes as the Mantis Shrimp can be a sloppy eater. Water flow doesn't need to be anything more than a small power head.
Depending on the species you are housing they can be feed small crustaceans, such as hermit crabs, or other small crabs as well as frozen meaty foods, mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, snails or small fish. In Bam Bam's case I keep a ready supply of small to medium hermit crabs in the tank, as well as snails for algae clean up/ food and then I also have 3 small damsels which he has ignored so far.
I would like to open this thread to discussion and questions! I am, by no means, an expert but the information is out there and I will gladly help you find your answers. There is one leading expert in the field of Stomatopods and that is Dr. Roy Caldwell at U.C. Berkley. His website is a wealth of knowledge and I encourage you to log on and learn what you can.
I have just scrapped the surface of the Mantis Shrimp in this intro, but I have done this an effort to open the eyes of some people who have considered doing a small species specific tank in the future. Bam Bam's tank is plumbed onto my display tank as an active refugium and species tank for him.
The bottom line is, I enjoy Bam Bam so much I want to make sure I spread the word about what a wonderful pet these critters can be